We may be biased because London is our home but we feel it’s one of the best cities in the world for Art lovers. London’s place on the world’s art scene has long been established, and its huge range of art galleries, museums and creative spaces means you can always find something you’re into, whatever your taste. The large amount of art on display can be a little overwhelming, but for a taste of some of the best, here are a few of my suggestions, from Baroque to graffiti and all things in between…
London has a thriving street art scene, and many of the world’s renowned contemporary artists have left their mark (literally) on the capital. Because of the nature of street art, it’s difficult to know how long a piece will remain before being painted over. Head to the famously alternative area of Brick Lane area and Shoreditch and you’re bound to spot a Shepard Fairey mural or one of ROA’s giant black and white animals.
The Leake Street tunnel in Lambeth, under Waterloo Station was created in 2008 for the Cans Festival, featuring the work of Banksy. Now commonly known as the Banksy Tunnel, it is well with seeing, given its accessible location.
Village Underground is a Shoreditch arts venue and creative space with recycled train carriages used as studios and offices. There are many works on the surrounding walls and train carriages, including the iconic ‘Lets Adore and Endure Each Other’ by the Italian artist RUN.
If you’re looking to buy, take home a work of art from the Pure Evil Gallery in Hoxton. The gallery is home to renowned artist Pure Evil, and features many of his prints, as well as those from other globally renowned artists.
There are plenty of places to see contemporary art in London, in some of the world’s most famous galleries. London has played host to exhibitions by the now (in)famous Young British Artists or YBAs – the small group of ‘Brit Art’ makers that included Damien Hurst, Tracey Emin and Sarah Lucas. From the White Cube to the Gagosian, London has an incredible choice of contemporary art galleries including…
The Saatchi Gallery in its new home in Chelsea is free to enter, and exhibits fine works by young unknown artists and world names. Charles Saatchi’s support of the YBA movement in the 1990s saw his art collection grow, and with it, the public’s interest in contemporary art.
Now a well established name in modern art (and most people’s favourite) the Tate Modern is a vast gallery on London’s Bankside. With 4 floors of gallery space and the giant Turbine Hall, The Tate is a must-see gallery for any contemporary art lover. Entry is free, with only the special temporary major exhibitions demanding a fee, and showing for a few months at a time.
The Whitechapel Gallery, at the foot of Brick Lane and next to Aldgate East tube station is another of London’s great art institutions. It played host to Picasso’s masterpiece Guernica in 1939, and has exhibited works by Frida Kahlo, Mark Rothko and David Hockney. It now exhibits a vibrant mix of art from from the world over, including sculpture, film and photography.
For those with more reserved tastes, London has an equally vast collection of traditional works spread across many galleries. Works range from the Wallace Collection’s 18th century paintings and furniture, to the William Morris Gallery of Arts and Crafts’ books and textiles.
The National Gallery is the 4th most visited art museum in the world, and many of its huge collection of paintings from the 13th to the 19th century are on display in its imposing building that overlooks Trafalgar Square. Van Gough’s Sunflowers and Constable’s Hay Wain are here, and to see the whole gallery would take days.
A short boat ride down the Thames from the Tate Modern is Tate Britain. Another free gallery, it exhibits mainly traditional art (but not exclusively) and visitors can see works by Turner and Millais along with those by Tracy Emin and Gilbert & George.
The National Portrait Gallery is sat behind the National Gallery and features portraits of some of Britain’s most important and influential men and women. From 15th century paintings to modern day photographs, the gallery has a large collection, and frequent temporary exhibitions, from Pop Art portraits to Hollywood icons.
London is home to three of the top five most visited art museums in the world, so if it’s art that floats your boat – what are you waiting for?
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All photos taken by Graham except Banksy and Pure Evil photos (click image for photo credit).